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One can tell when I've been too busy; my personal DW/LJ 'blog becomes neglected. In the past eleven days since my last entry a lot of my time has been spent in public engagements in philosophy and politics. Last night there was a well-attended meeting of the Melbourne Atheist Society where I spoke on Atheism, Islam, and Secularism, which was well-received and generated some excellent discussion. It followed from convening a meeting of The Philosophy Forum on Sunday where Graeme Lindenmayer from Agnostic Perspectives presented on The Concept of Beauty, in his particular style - accessible and detailed.

Another publication of the past few days was a contribution to the ALP Platform Committee which contains some pretty serious suggestions on taxation, employment, education, drug reform, and transport issues, and followed on from an article several days prior on land tax and proportional representation. Monday morning (Australian time) of course was the results of the French election and University House hosted a special early brunch with speakers. I raised the question of the future of the Parti socialiste which was followed the following day by a radio interview in Sydney on John August's program, Radio Skidrow on the west European electoral landscape; a follow-up post is planned.

There has been, of course, Linux and work-related events as well. Last Tuesday Dr. Paul Bone gave a presentation to Linux Users of Victoria on the Plasma programming language which combines imperative and functional programming with automatic parallelisation. It's a work in development and I've set up a project on Spartan for further development. We sponsored an HPC support lunch on Monday and a major item that has come out of that is the need for a massive biotechnology database that is somewhat closer to home than the NCBI or the DDBJ. These datasets are seriously big and file transfers alone are a serious issue for Australian researchers.

In addition to this I have expanded my Duolingo work by starting courses "upside down" - having completed Esperanto, Spanish, French, and German, I am now undertaking English as an (alleged) speaker of French, German, and Spanish (alas, there is no Esperanto section). There has been of course, a few gaming sessions over the past couple of weeks with Papers & Paychecks planned for tonight, GURPS Middle Earth last Sunday, Eclipse Phase last Friday and the Sunday prior, and a new game of Elric! last Wednesday. One item also of note was dinner at a great Spanish restaurant last week with nephew Luke and his flatmate Nick (they live above the restaurant): a great night, I got to practise my appalling Spanish with the staff, and fantastic food: the Arcadia is thoroughly recommended.
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Linux Users of Victoria had its AGM on Tuesday night with Scott Penrose talking about the use of Linux in Arctic and Antarctic conditions for satellite date; a great presentation and once again I find myself on the committee for another term. The following night attended a Socialist Left post-election union meeting at Trades Hall. It was what could be expected, burly left-wing unionists from the CFMEU, the ETU, the AMWU, the MUA, etc being prominent in the event and raising funds for the CUB 55, but also with a significant portion of young Labor left attendees. The meeting was well addressed by Senator Kim Carr, but the headline act was Labor leader and apparently Prime Minister apparent, Bill Shorten. Shorten is note exactly from the left by any stretch of the imagination but he does have a degree of political cunning and he certainly does understand union issues as illustrated by an impressive speech. I was very surprised when afterwards he broke from the group he was with to greet me - it has been some fifteen years since we were in any sort of regular political contact. Apparently one does not need political power to retain at least the status of being worthy of consideration.

Work has been ridiculously busy with the usual gaggle of tickets, infrastructure testing, and paper preparations. A major achievement has been shifting data - some of it over ten years old - from a long-retired HPC system. A good meeting today with a representative of Mathworks who provided an educated and interested summary of various types of parallelisation with Matlab. I must admit that I was a little stunned when an alleged adult educator claimed that 'andragogy' was a buzzword, and then contrary to their own claims that adult education is a peer-to-peer relationship rather than instructor-learner, cut off an important issue raised in a computing lecture that illustrated the potential of an off by one error. It was less than a personal affront or an example of workplace idiocy, which I usually take in my stride, but rather it offended the core principles of adult computer science education, something which I have a surprising attachment to, and confirmation of some rather unfortunate functional issues common in contemporary organisations. Afterwards continued my rants with the good hackers from 2600.

Europe preparations continue to go extremely well. My preparation of the core languages from Duolingo (German, French, Spanish, Esperanto) are at pace, and as a tangent I have just put in a request for Tetum (if they don't do it, I'll write my own). All transport and hotels booked, with the exception of our final week in Barcelona. Have also managed to come across some Frankfurt School researchers who are holding a conference just outside our visit, alas. Neverthless has already developed opportunities for further collaboration especially on the works of Friedrich Pollock, who was director of the Institute for many years and had a very interesting take on the transformation of market capitalism into authoritarian collective capitalism and the state-regulated class-compromise capitalism of the twentieth century, along with issues on automation. Whilst the Frankfurt School were very much into psychology, sociopathologies, and aesthetic criticism, their multidisciplinary approach did not preclude those with an economic and technological orientation of which Pollock is representative.
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I don't advise a haircut, man... Hair are your aerials. They pick up signals from the cosmos and transmit them directly into the brain.


In an attempt to delve into the utterly trivial, I'm 'blogging about my hair. I think it was around 2002 when I last went to a hairdresser. Since then I've simply let it grow, tied it back and when it reaches a "it's too long" state, I snip several inches off the ponytail. Well, it's certinly reached that recently, reaching the lumbar. So I handed [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya and she snipped several inches off and now I have a vaguely concave bob. People seem surprised that (a) it was done at home and (b) it took about three minutes. The approach fits a general approach to personal aesthetics; that is, a modicum of style without spending too much time and effort on the matter. Speaking of such aesthetic matters, I have completed a review of New Order's Music Complete on Rocknerd.

The long-drawn out winter election continues will pollsters with pundits thinking that Labor will just fall short with two weeks to go. I'll readily admit that I don't particular care for the opposition leader, Bill Shorten; I've seen him operate up close and personal and it's not my way of doing politics (which is possibly why I'm not in his shoes). But it seems that he's going for the jugular in these last two weeks and doing surprising well at it. There was a smashing QandA broadcast on Monday and tonight he left the Prime Minister looking tired and directionless on a leader's debate on Facebook (copy of the debate available). Shorten and Labor seem to have the full slate of thoroughly sensible positive policies whereas the government seems to have nothing. For liberals in the Liberal Party, they must be very disappointed with Turnbull, who comes across as directionless, dithering, and waffling. If this goes on I would not be surprised to see Labor pull off a surprising victory.
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Spent the better part of Saturday the ALP National Conference, which was a pretty average affair. The new national policy is largely OK, especially when considering a party that is dominated by a socially conservative wing with a large liberal-socalist internal opposition. Much of it was a creature of compromise (e.g., the two state-"solution" for Israel-Palestine, the passing to another committee the role of the socialist objective, the 'conscience' vote following by a binding vote relating to marriage equality). It was particularly good in relation to climate change mitigation. Even most of the asylum seeker policy was tolerable with a doubling of the humanitarian intake (by 2025), the abolition of TPVs, but also accepting offshore processing. The three-day notification by the leader, Bill Shorten, to accept boat turnbacks was an ambush, which has shored up his otherwise vapid leadership but at the cost of total loss of trust among those on the left. He'll be struggling to staff the booths on election day.

It's been a busy week for gaming; last Sunday week was GURPS Middle-Earth where we went through the second session of The Battle of Four Armies at Almost Helm's Deep. On Thursday played in a our regular session of Laundry Files which is pretty epic involving nano-bot shoggoths whilst fighting zombies on an oil-rig. On Friday night joined a new gaming group in Westgarth who are running Eclipse Phase, which I make a welcome return to - I get to play my social-democratic Octopoid. Sunday was 7th Sea Freiburg which has been skipped for a month due to familial duties. The session was more of tying up some lose knots, but also the planning to invade the home of the villain banker-landlord who is keeping his mail-order bride imprisoned. Some time has also been spent on further work on Spirit and Sword, especially on redesigning the activity spheres to incorporate environmental as well as occupational positions.

I have been running myself a bit ragged at work of late, and really need to slow down, especially if I'm going to be able to run courses next week with any sense of effectiveness. There's been a mountain of enrolment applications from the University of Melbourne, received almost immediately after advertising, but there is still some doubt on whether they are prepared to pony up for the courses. It makes enormous sense for them to do so; researchers who are trained in HPC finish their research earlier. But future benefits, even significant ones, often lose when confronted with short term costs.
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Sunday I gave a presentation at the Unitarian church on The Once And Future King : Mythology and Motivation from the Arthurian Legends. It was quite well-attended, especially given inclement weather, and managed to catch up with a number of people I hadn't seen for a while. The discussion after the presentation was excellent and I also managed to get two very smart people together who knew each other by their works but who had never met - they spent a good time in serious conversation, so that little hook-up worked very well. After the address, led the meeting of The Philosophy Forum, presenting on The Philosophy of Social Development, which also had an excellent discussion. Despite my express desire for some else to take up the organiser's role (I don't like holding positions for too long), it seems that I'm stuck with this one for a while, whether I want it or not! Finally, for the third event of the day, finished off playing in a session of GURPS Middle-Earth. That itself was the second major gaming event of the week, with Call of Cthulhu Masks of Nyarlathotep run on Thursday night, which concluded the 1920s Chinese version of You Only Live Twice.

Queensland had an election on Saturday. Starting from a mere nine seats out of eighty-nine the Labor Party is just shy of a outright majority, in one of the most extraordinary political changes in Australian history. Turfed out after a single term, the Newman government's rule was noted by giving discretionary powers to the Attorney-General for indefinite detention for sex offenders, the imprisonment of members and associates of what he called "outlaw motorcycle clubs", with presumed guilt of association rather than innocence, and the sacking of some 13,000 public servants in the first year. With a swing of over ten percent, some of his MPs were reduced to doing the chicken dance when questions were raised about impropriety. With an opinion poll released the same day showing support for the Federal LNP government has fallen to 57-43 in arrears, the sharks are finally circling the Prime Minister, who has come out insulting the electorate by saying they voted for change in a fit of absent-mindedness; you can't make this up.This is certainly a lesson in a democratic politics; treat the electorate like a contemptuous thug and they'll put you last. That's why our forebears fought so hard for it.

Of particular delight over the weekend was catching up for dinner with [livejournal.com profile] log_reloaded and her partner Jase, the latter of whom cooked up quite a feast. It had been a little while since we'd caught up face-to-face, so it was a pretty good evening. In the last week I also reviewed the debut album from alternative rock band, Menace Beach which was less than earth-shattering. Finally, after a one year hiatus, I have made some significant moves this week towards enrolling in yet another degree, albeit one previously planned - a Master of Education at the University of Otago.
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Well, as everyone knows we've had a change in government in Victoria, with no less than a card-carrying member (we don't really have cards) of the Socialist Left leading the Labor Party to a modest victory that included some really impressive grassroots campaigning. I worked myself pretty hard on the final week of the campaign (arguably too hard and completely exhausted myself on one day - I'm not twenty anymore). I have ventured some opinions and personal experiences of the campaign in a 'blog post on Isocracy.

Nevertheless the fallout and counting from the Victorian state election continues. The Greens have successfully replaced a progressive woman in the seat Melbourne with a progressive woman whilst their vote overall has declined and they have fallen short of knocking off a Tory MP in a nearby seat - and yet still many consider this to a "victory". As convener, I have reviewed the Victorian Secular Lobby election 2014 campaign, and am looking forward to seeing on what issues the new government can take a positive direction (e.g., chaplains, religious instruction in public schools, equal opportunity, and voluntary euthanasia). A couple of days ago had dinner with old comrade Bill Bowe of The Pollbludger who was visiting for said event, which included a visit to the Abbotsford Convent and of course a quick view of our old Kew Asylum.

Preparing myself for this Sunday's meeting of The Philosophy Forum where I take on the question of The Philosophy of Music, looking at definitions, history, technology, and aesthetics. Next week it also seems that I'll be visiting Sydney for a couple of days, specifically to Macquarie University's Australan Institute of Health Innovation to provide training to researchers on Linux command line, PBSPro job submission, Postgresql, and OpenMPI programming.
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On Wednesday evening presented a two-hour lecture and tutorial for the CPA Young Professionals at Victoria University on GnuCash, the free and open-source accounting program. They're a good crowd, and were quite impressed with the functions available in GnuCash; I have little knowledge of commercial products of this sort, so their feedback was very welcome. In particular they liked the multicurrency and the optional automatic updates on currency values and stock prices. It was suggested that this was bridging the gap between accounting and financial services software.

The prior night I had been to see "Yes", who have been performing since 1968. In this case the concert was their early classic albums Close to the Edge and Fragile played in full. My review went up on The Dwarf a couple of days later and was followed by a compilation of Yes Trivia that I put together for Rocknerd. In other social activities, Thursday night was our regular Masks of Nyarlathotep game where the mainly European characters ventured in the inscrutable and confusing world of 1920 Shanghai.

This afternoon picked up the 10,000 DL cards for the Victorian Secular Lobby's state election campaign. In the last week we'll distribute these and have a bit of a social media campaign. In general, the election is looking good for the Labor Party. The lead will narrow in the final week, the Napthine (and Baillieu) government has been so ineffectual and confused for so long even their most ardent supporters must know their time is up. In any case, mixing Federal and State issues, one expects that a large number of people just want to the opportunity to give Abbott one on the nose. Apropos there's an impressive Youtube advertisement which shows the human side to Labor leader Daniel Andrews, and earlier in the week I wrote a retrospective on the Whitlam government for The Isocracy Network; The Power and the Passion.
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Attended a joint ALP Kew and Hawthorn branch meeting last night. Johan Scheffer gave an excellent retrospective on the last four bumbling years of LNP government before the two candidates spoke on they're travelling. Both indicated a sense that even dyed-in-the-wool LNP voters have simply had enough. These are very safe Liberal seats; and if their blue-blood heartland's are like this, one can only imagine what it is like in marginal electorates. I've just about completed the letter-boxing in my area, still after these years with a sense of wonder and sometimes horror at the enormous mansions and often rambling blocks so near to the city. I've also put my hand up for the Kooyong FEA Policy Development Officer position which is currently vacant. With prior friendly relations, attended the charming campaign launch of the Australian Sex Party at Madame Brussls. Despite their cheeky name (I have suggested that it be changed to the 'Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Party) they have very sensible policies. Party leader, Fiona Patten, made the very good point that in their brief history they've raised a number of policy proposals that have since been adopted by the major parties. Meanwhile the Victorian Secular Lobby election fundraising campaign continues with the modest success as expected.

Latest edition to the RPG Review store is a variety of fairly rare MegaTraveller material. I would delight in running this one again, especially the grim experiences portrayed in Hard Times as the high technology network falls apart. Another option of course would be run Traveller: The New Era again with its approach of space piracy and scavenging, where the Imperium is a distant memory. Nevertheless, it is now a certain thing that in a fortnight's time I'll be starting up a 7th Sea game on a fortnight, using the Freiburg campaign pack and with [livejournal.com profile] usekh introduced to the group. It's an odd game; not-quite-Europe in the 17th century with that somewhat clunky roll-and-keep resolution system with sorcery added in (others provide a more enthusiastic review). Freiburg itself is a weird setting; it's like the authors wanted a pseudo-libertarian experiment for the baroque age.

With the arrival of warmer weather, the opportunity to cycle to work again was increasingly enticing. So I purchased a relatively inexpensive mountain bike from Aldi. Gave a few short runs and it seemed relatively fine, took it for one serious workout and the back tyre went flat about a quarter in the journey along Yarra Blvd. Walked for an hour to the closest service station only to discover that the valve is completely broken; spent another hour walking it to work. Others have had equally bad experiences with similar products. In actual work, have engaged in yet another battle with a new release of LAMMPS which never ceases to astound me with its lack of autoconfiguration tools and have been making my way with a fine-tooth comb with the Drupal module for project management. As a basic structure it's not bad, and the nice thing about it is that it's really easy to extend and incorporate with other Drupal modules (Views in particular comes to mind).
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It was a very rocknerd week. On Monday night took up an offer from The Dwarf to see and review Australian punk legends, Radio Birdman who were downright awesome. Also purchased their excellent CD-DVD collection which was reviewed on Rocknerd. Later in the week took the opportunity to review the last album by 65daysofstatic, Wild Light (who, incidentially, are touring next year). Alas the Rolling Stones cancelled their gig at Hanging Rock, which would have been quite a show.

It's been a few months since the RPG Review store was updated, courtesy of some bulk purchases. But have done so now with a small mountain of Twilight 2000 material which, at the very least, is one of the more remarkable collection of information for of 1980s military technology. Last Sunday was a remarkable session of Werewolf Yugoslav Wars which resulted in the death of a PC, due to another's botched healing attempt, and the capture of a major enemy in dramatic fashion. The players still have to work out how they're smuggling out a "Paleo-Eurasian" wolf from Sarajevo under UNESCO auspices. Thursday night was a session of Call of Cthulhu Masks of Nyarlathotep, with the player investigators ending up making all the rights choices and succeeding in all their checks at critical moments. As a result of their success they completely missed out on one of the most epic scenes in any published roleplaying adventure, which had to be described.

The Victorian state election approaches with most opinion polls at this point suggesting a clear win for the Labor Party. Whilst I am certain that Daniel Andrews will make a great premier, I have concerns that the Tories may yet snatch an undeserved victory. For my own part in the blue-ribbon seat of Kew, I am carrying out the thankless tasks of distributing thousands of DL election advocacy cards. A few days ago I also started the fundraising campaign for the Victorian Secular Lobby; as a small group we're only making a modest contribution to the election, but carefully targetted to be effective. If you support the separation of religious beliefs from civic governance, please consider donating to the campaign.
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Yesterday attended the memorial service for Frans Timmerman, whom I've previously written about. It was a superb gathering, with some 250 or so people packed into the Trades Hall New Council Chambers (particularly apt, given how many political battles he fought there), and afterwards at the Trades Hall Bar. The event was MC-ed by Ros Eason, and speakers included one of Frans' brothers, Julius Timmerman, former deputy leader of the Victorian Legislative Council, Glenyys Romanes, radical publisher, David Spratt, former PLO representative Ali Kazak (who provided some noteworthy poetry), radical collaborator Lesley Podesta, conservative Labor MHR John Murphy, and partner and collabotor Associate Professor Anitra Nelson. Much was spoken of a man who touched many lives with his principled radicalism and I'm sure most learned something new about Frans (despite years of association, I had no idea about his athleticism as a youth).

This event was, of course, held during the ANZAC day long-weekend, which to me represents the day when Australia, under the flag of the British Empire, invaded Turkey - just as Australia Day represents the British invasion of indigenous Australia. I feel no pride in either day. Rather I feel distaste towards those politicians and their advocates that we should invade others at the behest of the British Empire and the British race and anger at the terrible waste of human life that occurred as a result of both events. But the politicians continue that agenda, as the Australian government confirms the purchase of 58 new Joint Strike Fighters, also welcomed by the lovers of war in the Labor Party. There are some rebels to this desire for the blood of others, Dr. Jensen in the Liberal Party, Kelvin Thompson in the Labor Party. For their own part, The Age newspaper receives accolades for producing one of the best front-covers ever - it should be taught in first year media studies courses as an example of juxtaposition, and in first year economics as an example of opportunity costs.
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I found out on Saturday morning, just as I was preparing to staff the ALP stall at the Kew Festival, that Frans Timmerman had died after some time suffering from an incurable illness. Frans and I had worked quite closely as co-covenors (administration and policy, respectively) of the Labor Left-Pledge Unions faction of the ALP (the "hard left" as that enlightened journal, The Herald-Sun, described it) in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A highly disciplined organiser, Frans gave me an appreciation of a necessary modus operandi in practical politics which I am, by sentiment and idealism, perhaps not as well suited for.

It was around February 1996 that I rejoined the Labor Party, having previously been a member around 1984-1986, before a few years involvement in semi-Trotksyist politics in the guise of what is now the Democratic Socialist Perspective. My timing of rejoining was just before the election of John Howard as Prime Minister, where the forward-looking proposals of the Keating government; republicanism, engagement and integration with south and east Asia, indigenous reconciliation and native title, etc. would come to a screaming halt and reversal.

About a year later I became involved in the Pledge group, primarily through contact with Peter M. The Pledge group was organised as a minority split from the mainstream Socialist Left following that group's support for privisiation of public assets and a lack of proportional power-sharing within the faction. Despite a working alliance within the branch and organisational level with the more conservative Labour Unity group to protect our handful of MPs, over time nearly all of our union base had drifted back to the SL.

It was this environment that I threw myself into the various policy committees of the Party. For some years I chaired the indigenous affairs policy committee (we passed some fairly radical policies through conference), and was also involved in the committees relating to economics, energy, housing, information technology, education, health, and others. There were several MPs I worked for as en electorate officer, before being transferred as a statewide field officie for the Parliamentary Party as a whole. I also was a State Conference delegate at the time, taking the opportunity to stir the possum a few times. In each and all of these activities Frans was there, backing me one hundred percent. I believe he realised that I was not well suited to machinations of collective and binding caucuses, so putting me in charge of policy was the appropriate leadership role.

Over time however the need for a shift back to the SL became more apparent, especially as the centre-right gained further ascendency. It started with my argument that there should be an exchange of preferences on the policy committees. Eventually this become proposals to do so on the branch, administrative, and public office level as well. Frans was ever pragmatic about it, noting that there was no point being a minority faction holding the balance of power when there wasn't one. The vote to work with the SL on this level was lost with a large section of our remaining union representatives supporting the status quo. Frans and I quit our positions as the conveners, and signed up with the SL with most of the branch members.

At the end of that year I moved to East Timor, and shortly afterwards Frans moved to Katoomba to run his bookshop. We stayed in contact but we weren't nearly as closely involved anymore; I took a few years off involved, organisational politics in general, albeit with a more recent re-involvement. Frans' passing has hit me pretty hard, even though it was expected for some time. In remembering the times past, it has actually inspired me from contemplative reflection of why he worked so hard at ensuring that there was some inkling of a continuing radical tradition within the ALP.
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My review of Lords of Creation has been published on rpg.net. Thursday night ran a session of D&D 4th edition to some experienced gamers who had never played it before. Original assessments remain accurate; innovative for D&D roleplaying, heavily influenced by CCGs, and a little bit too orientated towards powers and encounters. Currently pointing together RPG Review issue 21 (computers and RPGs) and prepaing for Unicon sesion for Masters of Duck and Leath. In addition to the online store also have some auction items on Ebay.

Next Tuesday's meeting of Linux Users of Victoria looks quite impressive with speakers from Amazon Web Servers and a privacy expert. Cluster work has been investigative, challenging, and maddening this week; installations of Matlab and SAS with remote licenses and poor graphic forwarding, libraries that are in paths but are not linking, multicore fire dynamics software that works with some quantity of processors but not others (installation wasn't so bad), and installation of bleeding edge R libraries. Finally and appropriately for most things mentioned in this post; happy 30th birthday to the GNU Project. The world would be a much poorer place (technologically and culturally) if it wasn't for people giving their software away under a public license - which is why I will be making a submission against software patents.

Attended a leadership debate between Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese at Trades Hall today; not much of a debate because that usually requires opposing views. Both gave strong speeches emphasising the successes of Labor in government policy-wise (with some admissions of error), condemned the infighting in the Party, and emphasised the new party of being in the community and with new levels of democratic reform. On the other side of politics, slightly surprised by the bumbling of the first weeks in office; university fees and cuts proposed, the NBN board sacked or resigned, and serious diplomatic stumblings with Indonesia over asylum seekers. Perhaps this explains the surge in membership on the Labor-Green Alliance page on FB, and a quick change in opinion polls.
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As mentioned in the last post, I was on Lateline on Friday night, arguing in favour of a member-component to the ALP leadership ballot and extending this to other areas; the latter part will be a very interesting challenge. As is usual with such appearance, have had a few strangers remark to me in public on this. Spent the better part of Saturday preparing for an Agile PM exam which I did on Sunday morning and, as is my want, compiled some notes on the course and put a 'blog post on my website about it.

On Sunday morning attended Rev. Dr. Debra Campbell's address at St. Michael's entited Love Needs Our Attention. It was, as can be expected, a non-denominational address on the subject and I've taken the opportunity to contact the minister concerning Feuerbach's theory of love (and God). The music was very well performed by Joe Chindamo who cheekily did a version of It Ain't Necessarily So. Afterwards attended the final meeting of the discussion group on Karen Amstrong's Charter for Compassion, which had the announcement that two members of the small group had just been awarded an Order of Australia for their long-time work in charitable causes, specifically drug rehabilitation and mental health - good examples of people who put their ideas into useful practise.

Today am preparing to take the silver bird for a short trip to Sydney to deliver training for a couple of days at the Centre for Health Informatics. The course material combines the usual three days of Linux, HPC, PBS, and MPI Programming material into two days plus some PostgreSQL, which means it'll be fairly intensive and challenging - and that's just from the person giving the course. I rather wish that I had another day or two up my sleeve to catch up with various Sydney-siders but I suspect that's not going to be the case this time.
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The ALP is about to embark in an election for a new leader, which includes a 50% weighting from rank-and-file party members. Some people are not happy with the new rules. Apparently a couple of people dobbed me in to the ABC's Lateline to talk about the new system, which of course I advocated empowerment of members, which should be available on their "vodcast" very soon. It is interesting fact of democratic political theory that people seem to prefer a populist and representative democracy for people in positions of power, but accept a deliberative and participatory method for policy. To be sure, there must be some feedback between the two (e.g., representative should be delegates and advocates of the policy), but a major problem within the ALP at the moment is the "party within a party" model of binding caucuses, which means as a whole the body suffers.

Apropos this, increasingly it is becoming evident that the LNP's Coaliton victory last Saturday was not due to their policies, but rather due to the inability of the ALP to manage itself. A young university student initiated a petition appealing to the Coalition to adopt a fibre-to-the-premises rather than fibre-to-the-node. The new minister is doing his master's bidding (i.e., Rupert Murdoch) and has made it clear that he won't be swayed. Likewise climate researchers and technologists are appealing to the Coalition not to axe the loans scheme in the Green Energy Bank; but again, the new minister has said he won't be swayed, perhaps part of the process of having a climate skeptic indicating interest in becoming science minister. Perhaps people are beginning to learn that they really did mean to implement all those crazies ideas that they said that they would.

Completely on a tangent, have had a couple of very enjoyable gaming sessions recently including another episode of Eclipse Phase last night, and Space 1889 last Sunday. Neglected to mention that the week previous ran a GURPS modern horror scenario, which was full of some fairly factual backstory mistakes (no smilodon or neanderthal in Africa, Sudan does not share a border with Liberia), and has a bit of a Scooby-Doo ending, all of which can - and should be - dropped, in favour of keeping the core story - a vampiric sabre-toothed tiger arises again! In news of the games store, now up to an estimate ten percent of planned stock, adding the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, and some Mage : The Ascension and Vampire : The Masquerade items. Next planned review for RPG.net is an obscure classic, Lords of Creation.
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As per opinion poll expectations, the Labor Party has been defeated in the Federal election. Slightly annoyed that the leaders of the ALP and the Greens failed to work cooperatively in the campaign, providing numerous examples of resource wasting, not to mention the damaging effects of the factional infighting; as Beattie observed the ALP was far better at governing the country than governing themselves. Abbott will now have to face up to his improbable collection of promises which, as listed, will mean a shift in income and wealth from the poor to the rich and will damage Australia's economic and technological growth. The damaged version of the National Broadband Network being a combination of both negative factors.

Have been working through an free short Agile Project Management course run by Charles Sturt University. It certainly some benefits worth keeping in mind, but doesn't serve as a particularly strong methodology. The greatest weakness, I believe, would be the ease in which it can be misapplied as general sloppiness. In more comprehensive academic progress, took the initiative in starting the online discussion for Participation and Access for Tertiary Education Policy. Next up is an analysis of the 2008 Bradley Review of Higher Education.

My review of Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game has been published on RPG.net; a beautifully produced game with some lovely features, but sloppy editing and dull combat system (of all things!) puts the ratings down. This follows on my review of Albedo a somewhat strange combination of anthromorphics and hard simulationist science fiction. Thursday was another session of Pendragon which is reaching the apex of the "Romance period", before heading off to do engage in demon-hunting in Ireland. Tomorrow is another episode of Space 1889 on the Victorian-era fantasy of Mercury, which is an opportunity and excuse for some steampunk attitude and props.
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Have neglected a journal entries as the past three days has been largely taken up with running the "boot camp" intensive course that I run through work for Linux, High Performance Computing, and MPI programming. It is impressive that many of the students start off with no experience with command-line Linux at all and by the third day they're working through the logic of parallel programming in C or Fortran. The feedback suggests that it may have something to do with my teaching style; I prefer to think that because the trainees are typically PhD-candidates or higher that they pick it up quickly. On topic, gave a presentation to The Philosophy Forum on Sunday on The Philosophy of Education, with possibly the largest turnout witnessed at said gathering. There was some good debate over the counter-intuitive proposition that learning styles are complete arse, and the debate of globalisation (multiculturalism, Internet, transnational economics) in economics - I tried to emphasise the point that there was no avoidance or turning back from this fundamental setting of education debates.

Each evening has also witnessed some interesting events. On Monday night was the 122nd Annual Henry George Dinner, held at the Royal Society premises with Saul Eslake as the speaker. He presented some rather sensible comments on the economic damage caused by negative gearing and the first home-owners scheme and so forth, and indicated his preference for site-based taxes over that on capital and labour - all common sense really. The following night was the Linux Users of Victoria Annual General Meeting which, true to tradition, was the smallest attendance for the year. My report emphasised the improvements in membership, meeting attendance, and finances but also raised the question of strategic choices for the organisation. A motion on disincorporation and merging with Linux Australia was lost on proxies. Initially, I must admit, I opposed the idea of disincorporation but in the very recent past have come to see that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The arguments against seemed to be more of emotional attachment, which of course is a legitimate issue, but it is not by sentimentality that organisations succeed.

The Federal election opinion polls continue to provide less than satisfactory results for the Labor Party. Some punters have tried to emphasise the point in a sweary and ranty, yet surprisingly spot-on comparison on the major issues. It is surprising of course that given the disparity in policy common-sense that Labor is coming in on Saturday in underdog status. What it does seem is that there is a mood of "things are good, let's have a change", which of course is just crazy reasoning; do you apply that to relationships, for example? Perhaps the weirdest is the continuing claim by the LNP that they will abolish the so-called carbon tax (which is already an ETS) and replace it a "Direct Action" scheme which will cost more and not achieve our emissions commitments. I just hope that somehow people decide not to be an idiot this coming Saturday.
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Recently found out that [livejournal.com profile] angel80 has passed away, quite close to her birthday. She is a person whom I only had the pleasure of meeting once, a pleasant afternoon at a pub in Randwick, but had engaged in excellent discussion on livejournal since my days in Timor-Leste. A recognised expert in transitional and developmental economics, and especially the status of women, she is leaving behind quite a cadre of students whom she supervised PhDs, and had undertaken her courses. I am giving consideration to compiling a collection of works in her memory and honour.

On Thursday night, despite suffering the throaty effects of a very stubborn minor cold, spoke at the Victorian Humanist Society on Secularism, individual rights and democracy. It was well attended with excellent questions, even if I felt my delivery was less than optimal (*cough* *splutter*) on the night. Following night had dinner with Andrew R. and discussed the choice of the Victorian Secular Lobby for the worst major candidate (FB link) in the Australian election.

Speaking of which opinion polls do not look good for the Labor. This is quite strange given the budget blow-out by the Coalition, their ridiculous shop for boats policy, and their proposal to deny franking credits on their parental paid leave plan. Either the polls are wrong, or people really have taken leave of their senses.

On a completely different subject matter, my review of the indie axial age narrativist game.In A Wicked Age has been published on RPG.net; next review lined up is Albedo, which is weird combination of furries, hard science, and crunchy mechanics. RPG store continues do to quite well, especially given the minimal time that I'm dedicating to it. Tomorrow is another session of Karl's Space 1889 Ubiquity game, following our successes on Mercury last time.
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Raised some initial proposals a few days ago on talk-politics suggesting that the abolition of crime was practical and possible and very interesting discussion ensues. Gave an address on Sunday at the Unitarian Church on Malala Yousafzai which had a good turnout and good discussion. Following that convened The Philosophy Forum for Rohan McLeod's presentation on "Theories of Language and Definitions". After that played first session of a short Fantasy Craft campaign set in Middle-Earth, based around the Lake Town region. Following day was interviewed by Sydney's Radio Skid Row 88.9FM on Monday on the basis of my article on the Egyptian coup. Apparently this will be a regular short-piece on international politics, every Monday morning at 8.45am - next up apparently is Venezuela. Last night convened Linux Users of Victoria for Bernie Meade's extremely interesting presentation on 3D printing at the University of Melbourne A little further in the future, will be speaking at the Humanist Society on Thursday, 22 August on Secularism, individual rights and democracy: some difficult questions.

Since the last entry a Federal election has been called with Labor and the Coalition on level pegging on a two-party preferred basis. Murdoch's media has made it clear who they support although although many seem to understand the ulterior motives. Coalition marginal seat candidate becomes internationally famous for fumbling an interview, but perhaps just following leader, or perhaps the shadow treasurer. With so much confused bumbling it in unsurprising that the social media tool of parody has risen - and the response will simply lead to more ridicule. Finally, Dr. Joe Toscano, founding Public Officer of the Isocracy Network, will be running as a candidate.
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The Ruddstoration continues with the latest Newspoll 51-49 to the Coalition (compared with 57-43 last week) from primary votes of 35% for Labor (up six), 43% for the Coalition (down five) and 11% for the Greens (up two). Rudd now leads as preferred PM49 (+16 compared to Gillard) Abbott 35 (-10), and personal ratings Rudd: both approval and disapproval at 36% with Abbott approval 35% disapproval to 56%. A comparison between the two Newspolls of June 22-23 and June 28-29 is extraordinary, indicating both how important a media savvy leadership is in contemporary times and how unstable the electorate is, with actual policy providing but a modicum of import - although on that note, the Business Spectator makes a few points on the nonsense hyperbole that the opposition came out with concerning carbon pricing. The remarkable turnaruond has the Pollbludger and Possum having scratching their polling trend models to account for the change in circumstances.

The most disconcerting part of the revival however has been some absolutely abhorent comments by the Foreign Minister Bob Carr suggesting that so-called economic migrants (especially Iranians) are arriving in substantial numbers seeking political asylum - because apparently being middle-class is a protection against persecution. Actual research on the matter indicates this is not so. Perhaps the Foreigbn Minister would like to meet my friend Leon, an Iranian refugee, who suffers PTSD and has been unable to settle properly because of this. His entire family was executed by the Iranian government for their political views and religious apostasy. Middle-class? Yes they were. Persecuted? To the highest possible extent..

In more personal news finally received results for my first Graduate Certificate course, Facilitating Lifelong Learning; a High Distinction (82%). Eagerly awaiting the course materials for Tertiary and Adult Education Policy, and of course, the material for my Public Revenue unit for the Postgraduate Diploma in Economic Policy. Later this month will be travelling to Sydney where I will be presenting at the 4D Conference, organised by Diversity Australia. Whilst in Sydney, hoping to have a meeting of the Isocracy Network there as well. Just finishing off the final touches of RPG Review 20 with themes relating to 'Monsters and Aliens' (note the correct use of the word 'theme' there). Using my editorial perogative to make some observations concerning the behaviour of a certain online gaming story. In the meantime, my review of Heaven and Hell (1st edition) has been published on RPG.net.

Last night was the LUV July meeting, which excellent presentations by Alec Clews on Raspberry Pi and Russell Coker on using Xen for Server Transfers. Very saddened to hear that Evi Nemeth, author of many excellent UNIX and Linux Systems Administrator's Guides is apparently lost at sea with others between New Zealand and Australia.
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With Labor facing probable defeat in the upcoming elections, the party caucus has switched to former leader Kevin Rudd, who has returned to the position of Prime Minister. The problem with Labor, contrary to the Tory carping, is not so much the policies, which fall into the category of "quite good actually" (increased tax-free threshold, NDIS, Gonski, NBN, Clean Energy Act, Henry Review, Murray-Darling Basin recovery, etc) with some really notable exceptions (notable exceptions; treatment of asylum seekers, marriage equality, intervention in indigenous communities), but rather a leader who simply did not generate mass appeal or for that matter, mass loyalty within the ALP - and that is an issue of importance. Immediate results are very positive with big swings to Labor recorded by Roy Morgan and Reach-Tel. This translates to a gain of around eleven seats for Labor in Queensland, a state known for being a little pariochial.

In what is the first major policy shift, Rudd has done the right thing by single parents, reversing planned welfare cuts, and extended the timeline for the state governments to sign up to the Gonski education reforms. A big challenge in the next few days will be when Rudd meets with the Indonesian PM, where the issue of asylum seekers is brought up. Rudd has made it quite clear that the "turn the boats back" policy of Abbot is reckless and dangerous. If Rudd can pull off some sort of amazing agreement with Indonesia (say, having them agree to join the Convention on the Status of Refugees), then Abbott will be in serious trouble. With moves to a market-based scheme on carbon pricing evident, what happens when an incessant campaign driven by negative politics suddenly finds that it has to nothing to campaign against?

In my own life the few days of the week were entirely taken up by conducting HPC with Linux courses. The third course, Advanced HPC using Linux, almost entirely dealt with MPI programming, and I was quite happy with how it went, especially given it was the first time I've conducted the class. On a completely unrelated subject, on Thursday evening ran a session of Pendragon which is now up to the "Romantic phase", which included pagan insults of Guinevere, the chase of a unicorn, a visitation of an elf king, and the elevation of one of the PCs to the status of Duke of Anglia (which is a poisoned chalice if I've ever heard one). Apropos, looking forward to Sunday's game of Space 1889. Tomorrow's excitement however is a champagne breakfast with Alan Austin, who is visiting from France.

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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

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